Monday, January 30, 2006

Soapbox Derby

I haven't been posting a lot of political stuff lately. I guess I've sort of lost my taste for it.

When I started blogging, I was angry about a lot of things. I was angry that our administration had rushed us to war, and only started worrying about a REAL rationale when the body count exceeded their retardedly optimistic estimates. I was angry that Bush and his Legion of Doom had taken us from our most prosperous to our most destitute, and were STILL trying to blame the whole thing on Clinton. I was angry that so many people had their heads so far up Bush's ass that they refused to admit that anything was wrong, and instead blamed the administration's problems on the liberal media, gay marriage, stem cells, Satan, the French, and women in the workplace. But mainly, I was pissed off that anyone who dared voice their disagreement with the president was immediately labeled a bad American who hated freedom and the baby Jesus.

And so I posted. And in my zeal to sound off, I demonized an entire political ideology. I made conservatives the enemy, and I railed against them like they were this vast organization of racists and zealots who refused to hold Bush accountable for anything he said or did because they couldn't remember more than two days into the past.

But since the election, I've started to move away from that mindset. I mean, don't get me wrong. I still think Karl Rove is so evil that he has four sixes on his fucking forehead, and George W. Bush is so stupid he couldn't outthink a crack baby with its head in a plastic bag. The fact that they're conservative has nothing to do with any of it.

I also think John Kerry is a meandering blowhard is more likely to think an issue to death than to take any definitive action, and Ted Kennedy is a disgusting, drunken lecher who in all likelihood got away with murder. The fact that they're liberal is irrelevent.

Both sides have their share of embarrasments and assholes, and it's just our nation's bad luck that the worst the conservatives have to offer have managed to seize power. It's also our bad luck that so many people are so mired down by liberal vs. conservative or Democrat vs. Republican that they'll blindly support their team rather than concern themselves with the good of the country.

I guess what I'm saying is, I'm all about despising the people and railing against the issues. But I'm tired of the whole "What is wrong with conservatives" and "That's the problem with you liberals" arguments. Liberalism and Conservatism are political ideologies, and nothing more. If you honestly believe any one side holds a monopoly on morality or integrity, then you're too fucking stupid to vote. Or operate a motor vehicle.

Or as Stephanie, who is both beautiful and wise beyond her years, once put it, "There are no good guys and bad guys. You just pick the side whose hypocrisy offends you least, and you stick with them."

Thanks for listening. You've been very therapeutic.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Set 'Em Up, Country Music!

Several months ago, I thought it would be funny to start referring to my friend Sean as "Country Music."

You see, Sean is as urbane and sophisticated as anyone raised in Garland could possibly be. He was metrosexual before anybody was ever using that word. So the idea of saddling Sean with the nickname "Country Music" made me giggle like Karl Rove at his mom's funeral.

At first, Sean was resistant to the idea. However, once his wife Laura joined me in my campaign to make the nickname stick, he decided to fight fire with fire. He announced that if I was going to call him "Country Music," he was going to call me "Buttercup."

So now both nicknames have stuck.

Sean has decided that "Country Music and Buttercup" would be a great name for a musical act, so for Christmas he made me this:


At this point, I feel I should mention:
  1. Sean really is one hell of a graphic artist.
  2. I don't really own a rhinestone-studded shirt. Those were added in post-production.
  3. Sean is married and I've got a girlfriend, which means we couldn't possibly be as gay as we look in that picture.
  4. If we ever really do take our musical act on the road, I want our first hit to be a cover of "Convoy." Or "Freebird."
I wanna thank y'all for coming out tonight, and remind you to be generous to your foodservers! You can catch us here at the Dover Airport Ramada every Wednesday night! And don't forget, tapes and CDs are available from the truck of our car after each show!

Goodnight, fillies and buckeroos! Drive carefully!

You Oughta Be In Pictures...

After reading yesterday's post, my good buddy Sean thoughtfully sent me some screen captures from our 1981 epic Dungeons and Dragons film. Ah, the beauty and majesty of burgeoning nerds in the wild...



This is me, along with my faithful companions Greg and Kenny,
about to open the mysterious hanging bag. No idea what's in it.
Could be Otiluke's Uncanny Death Rock. Could be pie.



That's me as an elven archer, wearing the Spock ears
that so made a mockery of Garland justice...



That's me as a wizard, smiting somebody with my
unholy arcane wrath. THIS is why your preacher
didn't want you playing D&D.



This is our bad guy.
HAH! EAT THAT, SAURON!
YOU PUSSY!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Fuzzy Memories and Drug-Induced Flashbacks - Part VI

When we were in the 6th grade, my friend Sean decided he wanted to make movies. Not just act, mind you, but also write and direct. A true auteur.

Armed with his dad's Super-8 camera (this was well before the age of video, you understand), he shot his first feature. It was about 5 minutes long, and it featured our friends Tim and Curt as wizards, battling it out on a local playground. The special effects were done by scratching the film with a nail. I remember being in total awe when I first saw the finished film. Even to this day, I think it's pretty fucking impressive.

For his next project, Sean decided to try something truly ambitious. He invested $45 of his saved allowance on something called a Craven Backwind, which would allow you to wind film backwards and create double exposures. He also got hold of an old cassette recorder, so now we could actually have sound.

Eager to push his new special effects capabilities to their limits, Sean decided our next film would be Return to the Land of the Giants. This was a big budget film, well over $100! Sean and his dad actually built a large, wooden spaceship to be used as a set.

Sean read a few technical books to learn how to do the giant/little people special effects. Unfortunately, despite the high tech capabilities of the Craven Backwind, they didn't turn out very convincing. Not only were the little people frequently transparent, but they were standing at odd angles in comparison to everything else. One hilarious scene featured me being frightened by a giant dog and swinging my briefcase at it. The dog was staring up at the camera, and I seemed to be floating on my back at a 45-degree angle.

Our next feature was The Adventures of Agent .05, starring me as a secret agent. This was the first collaborative writing effort between me and Sean, and I still take credit for the funny bits. Agent .05's partner was written in the script as a very sexy woman codenamed 36-24-36. We thought this was hilarious, despite the fact that she was played by a 7th grader. The bad guys belonged to an organization called M.E.S.S. (Maladjusted Enemy Secret Service), and they employed an assassin with a steel hand named Paws. You know, instead of Jaws. Holy shit, we were ON FIRE!!!

Most of the action took place in the local library (Sean actually called them and asked permission to film there). It also featured an exciting bike chase through the streets of Garland.

(Our 7th grade actress, Shelly, wasn't available when it came time to redub the dialog, so we called on Tim's sister Ruthi to fill in. Which means that our sexy secret agent was a 7th grader with the squeaky voice of a 4th grader. I just know that's gotta be against the law...)

Other film projects included parodies of Alien, Flash Gordon, Raiders of the Lost Ark (in which Sean was actually dragged behind a car driven by one of our older friends), and The Black Hole (where Sean finally got the hang of his Craven Backwind and superimposed an image of a spaceship floating above a flushing toilet bowl).

Probably our most ambitious project was our Dungeons and Dragons film, which was conceived immediately after seeing Monty Python and the Holy Grail for the first time. We were in the 8th grade by then, and our sense of humor had grown MUCH more sophisticated over the past couple of years.

The idea was simple. We'd have some people playing Dungeons and Dragons. And as they described the actions of their characters, we'd show the characters acting them out. Sometimes the players would make their characters do something truly stupid, like swing at a falling rock. And the character, rolling his eyes with annoyance, would step under the rock and swing his sword before getting crushed to death. It was comic gold, I tell ya!

Somehow, the original idea evolved into something much more far-reaching. I think Sean had it in his head to create an actual epic fantasy. And so, several months into production, we found ourselves in a vacant lot filming a pivotal scene.

Sean was an elven prince, garbed in armor and a cloak and wearing Mr. Spock ears. In the middle of the field, sticking up from the ground, he would see the legendary sword. So he'd grab it by the hilt and pull it from the ground. He'd hold it aloft, and its blade would burst into flames.

Now Sean was pretty well versed in special effects and pyrotechniques by this time. In addition to our crew of six and our equipment, we also had Sean's backpack, which was stuffed full of firecrackers, smoke bombs, Roman candles, and the empty shell of an actual Army surplus hand grenade.

The sword was made of wood, and Sean decided the best way to handle this magical scene would be to dowse the blade with gasoline and set it on fire.

So Sean was standing in the middle of a vacant lot and surrounded by tall, dry grass while holding a flaming piece of wood over his head. And the rest of us were so intent on getting it on film that we didn't even notice the police car that drove into the lot until we heard the quick little blast of the siren.

Sean was so startled that he dropped the sword, and we all ran over to stomp it out before it caught the grass on fire. Sean took the opportunity to slip off his pointed ears, and went to face the policeman.

"What the hell are you boys doing?" the policeman asked us. "You trying to start a fire or something?"

"Um, we're making a movie," Sean answered nervously. The officer glanced at all of us, and then his eyes fell on the backpack.

"What you kids got in there? Have you been firing a .22 out here?"

This caught us totally off guard. "No sir," Sean said. "We don't have any guns or anything."

"Mind if I have a look in there?" Before Sean could answer, the officer knelt and opened the backpack. Fortunately, he didn't seem terribly alarmed by the fireworks. But he was a bit concerned about the hand grenade.

"What the hell is that?" he asked.

"Oh, it's not real," Sean said, reaching for it.

The policeman jumped to his feet, his hand on his revolver. "Don't touch it!" he shouted at us. "I have a wife and kid at home and I want to make sure I make it home to them tonight."

"It's not real," Sean repeated in a trembling voice. He was talking frantically fast, running his sentences together, no doubt imagining the policeman opening fire on him. "If you look at the bottom you can see it's empty there's nothing in it it's not real I bought it at an Army Surplus store but it doesn't have any of the stuff in it that makes it explode..."

"All right, all right." The policeman examined the grenade, then set it back down in the backpack. "So, what's this movie you guys are making about?"

Sean had regained some of his composure by now. "Dungeons and Dragons," he said.

The officer regarded all of us, then said, "Do you boys know what that Dungeons and Dragons can do to your mind?"

Too intimidated to snicker, we could only look at each other with somber nods. Sean said, "Um, I don't know about that. I'm just making a movie."

"Well, I'd say you guys are done with your movie. If I catch you out here again, I'm calling your parents." He turned to leave, but stopped and stared at Sean's breast pocket.

"What's that in your pocket?" he asked.

"Huh?" Sean looked down, and then answered rather sheepishly, "Oh, those are ears."

***

When we first started in the 6th grade, Sean called his production company F&I Productions (for Freeman and Irby). However, by the time the incident with the policeman happened, my interest had waned somewhat. Part of it was pressure from my parents, who were convinced that Sean was going to get me arrested or killed. Part of it was high school, with new friends and new interests. And part of it was just the fact that I had grown self-conscious about dressing up in costumes and running around in public.

Sean changed the name of the company to AFP (Adventure Film Productions) and made a few more short films, some of which were truly hilarious. My favorite was an ad for a fake radio station called EVIL featuring Brian Damage and Jason in the mornings! Basically, the ad would feature somebody rocking out with a jam box. Brian Damage (in a straight jacket) and Jason (in a hockey mask) would approach. Brian would say, "What are you listening to?" The listener would answer enthusiastically, "E-V-I-L! Radio 105.666!" Then Jason would brutally murder the listener with a machete.

But eventually, Sean's passion for filmmaking went into decline. He still hosted AFP parties, and we all still got together on a regular basis. We hung out at the mall together, we played nerdy RPGs together, we went to movies, played computer games, played Photon (a precursor to LaserTag) rather religiously...

But we pretty much quit making movies.

***

Sean still has all of those old films in a box at his house. Every once in a while, he'll dig them out and set up the old Super-8 projector and we'll have ourselves a film festival.

Recently, he's expressed an interest in converting the films to digital format. He wants to get any of the old cassette tapes that survived the ensuing decades and synch up the sound, and then stamp them out onto a DVD. Sean's plan is to ultimately stage a film festival, and invite all of our old friends and long-suffering parents to see the fruits of our labors from 1978 to 1981.

So my pre-teen awkwardness and social retardation will soon be digitally remastered and preserved for the ages.

I can't wait!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Daytime Friends and Nightime Bloggers

My dear friend Laura (who is more adorable than a weiner dog in a sweater vest) has her own blog now. Her husband Sean (whom I've known since we were 6) is one of them graphical-type artists, so her personal web space is looking pretty damn snazzy. Go check it out at http://smartlikeowls.com!

(Sorry if that sounded bossy. I have control issues.)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

What Kind of Leading Man Am I?

William Powell

You scored 9% Tough, 38% Roguish, 23% Friendly, and 28% Charming!

You are the classic rogue, a stylish rake with the devil of a wit and a flair for mischief, and you shake your martinis to waltz time. You are suave and debonair, but slightly untrustworthy, and women should be on their guard. If married, you are simply a bit of a flirt, even if it's just with your own wife...but if you're single, watch out. You usually rein yourself in to concentrate on one lovely beauty at a time, but with you, we never know. You're not a bad guy, but there's a playful devil behind your eyes, and those trying to get close to you should know they're playing with fire. You're stylish and fun, but you follow your own course, which may or may not include a steady gal. Co-stars include Myrna Loy and Carole Lombard, classy ladies with an adventurous streak.

Find out what kind of classic dame you'd make by taking the Classic Dames Test.


My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:





free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 7% on Tough





free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 93% on Roguish





free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 37% on Friendly





free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 54% on Charming
Link: The Classic Leading Man Test written by gidgetgoes on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

WTF? - Special Alps Edition

About ten years ago, my friend Sean and I went to dinner at Uncle Julio's Fine Mexican. We were sitting on the patio, drinking Dos Equis and scarfing queso, and trying to have a conversation. Which was difficult, because there were two Businessmen™ sitting at a table near us. Older guys, still in their jackets and ties, talking incredibly fucking loud about nothing of any great import.

Honestly, we had no interest in their conversation. I always get self-conscious when I'm talking to my friends and I realize some total stranger is eavesdropping. Usually, I start trying to think of even wittier things to say, because I feel like I'm being judged on my delivery and content.

One time, however, I was having lunch with a co-worker named Mike, and we realized a lady sitting at the table next to us was listening. Mike kind of cut his eyes towards her to let me know that he'd noticed. So I said, "Oh, that reminds me. How did you ever get rid of those bodies?"

Mike replied, "They were starting to stink up my truck and I couldn't get to the dump, so I finally just had to lime them and bury them in my back yard."

"I told you to put them in garbage bags."

"I did! But they still leaked."

"Well, you're not supposed to use those lame-ass kitchen bags. You have to use the heavy duty three-ply stuff. Otherwise, once they start to putrify, you're gonna get leakage."

"I'll know next time." Mike nodded, contemplating. Then added with a smile, "But man, you should see my lawn. It's really coming in nice this year."

By this point, the lady stood up and left. Rather quickly. In fact, I think she threw away her tray on her way out the door.

But I digress...

So anyway, Sean and I were really trying not to listen to the loud, obnoxious conversation of the Businessmen™. But then, one of them said something we couldn't help but overhear. Something totally inexplicable and strange. Something that has haunted me and Sean for the past decade.

He said, "The Alps? Oh, you're not going to find them on the beach. They're in Switzerland."

Sean and I just looked at each other, our puzzlement growing with each passing moment. We were so busy trying to figure out that particular statement that we didn't hear anything said afterwards.

"The Alps? Oh, you're not going to find them on the beach. They're in Switzerland."

We pondered the statement, turning it over and over in our minds like a koan, desperately trying to unlock its hidden meaning. What in the name of fresh-spanked baby Jesus could the other man have possibly said to lead to his buddy replying, "The Alps? Oh, you're not going to find them on the beach. They're in Switzerland."

I guess we'll never know.

-----------------------------

On an unrelated (yet eerily serendipitous) note, my buddy Ix (who no longer blogs and is thus no longer linkable) and I went to Boston to visit friends back in 2001. One night, after much booze, a few of us were lying around in the hotel room watching The Big Lebowski on USA Network.

Now for those of you that haven't seen it, there's a rather famous scene where John Goodman's character is trying to intimidate someone by trashing a car and screaming. And what he screams, over and over, is "You see? This is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass! THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU FUCK A STRANGER IN THE ASS!"

Well, we were all eagerly waiting for that scene because we wanted to see how USA would handle it. Would they leave the scene intact, cut it entirely, bleep it out, or substitute some creative dialog?

Turns out they went with the creative dialog. And when John Goodman took an axe handle to the windshield of the car, he screamed, "You see? This is what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps! THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU FIND A STRANGER IN THE ALPS!"

Sigh. Good times.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

With Age Comes... Um... What Was I Saying?

Gran is my great-grandmother. Or, technically speaking, my STEP-great-grandmother. She's my grandfather's stepmother and, at 94, she's only 8 years older than him.

(Interestingly enough, 94 used to be the average age of a U.S. Senator until Strom Thurmond died and it dropped down to 57. But I digress...)

Anyway, of the six grandkids, two of us have never been married. (I mean married in general, not to each other.) And that has been a source of great concern for Gran, who is always willing to share her advice on relationships. All you have to do is ask her. Or just stand near her for a few seconds.

The following are actual conversations I've had with Gran. Read them, and bask in the wisdom of the aged.


Conversation with Gran – 1999

Gran:
You got a girlfriend yet, Chris?

Me:
No ma’am.

Gran:
How old are you?

Me:
Thirty-two.

Gran:
Well, don’t you worry, sugar. You know, I was 33 when I met your Papaw. It just takes some people longer than others, but don’t you worry. I’m sure the right person is out there for you.


Conversation with Gran – 2002

Gran:
You got a girlfriend yet, Chris?

Me:
No ma’am.

Gran:
How old are you?

Me:
Thirty-five.

Gran:
Well… do you like girls?


Conversation with Gran – 2005

Gran:
You got a girlfriend yet, Chris?

Me:
Yes ma’am. Her name is Stephanie.

Gran:
So, when are you two getting married?

Me:
We haven’t really… I mean, we’ve only been dating for a few months now.

Gran:
At your age, you need to be thinking about marriage, sugar. I mean, unless there’s something wrong with her. Is she a Christian?

Me:
Huh? Yeah, sure. Why not?

Gran:
It’s important that you both be Christians. Otherwise your marriage won’t last.

Me:
I guess that explains the high divorce rate in India.

Gran:
What?

Me:
Nothing.

The War on Christmas is OVER...

...and 2006 is underway. I've got to say, it looks to be a fairly promising year. I'm in love, I've got a job I enjoy, I've got a play debuting in March, and the Republican party is falling apart faster than Pat Robertson at a... well, faster than Pat Robertson, period!

Yeah, I know. Taking any joy in the plight of the current administration makes me a bad American who hates freedom and the baby Jesus. But I can't help it. Every time I remember Bush's promise to "restore honor and integrity" to the Oval Office, I just start giggling like Karl Rove at a puppy roasting.

Remember when things were so good in this nation that our biggest worry was whether or not our president got a blow job? Sigh. Good times.

-----------------------------

Okay, I held out as long as I could, but I finally had to turn on the word verification option because I was getting sick and tired of spammers posting messages like:

You have a really good blog about banjos and Jesus. If you want to read more about banjos and Jesus, come check out my blog at http://hotwetsluts.horndog.com.

I swear, they're not even trying anymore. I used to get e-mails with titles like "Here are those stamps you ordered..." and when I'd click, I'd suddenly be inundated with oily vaginas. Pictures, I mean.

But now, those spams all have stupid fucking headings like "whisper theocracy underwear." No pride in their work. That's why people have no respect for spammers.

Well that, and their penchant for sending pictures of oily vaginas to total strangers. But mainly the pride thing.

So anyway, if you want to post from now on, you'll have to type one of those horribly disfigured words into a box. That's all I was trying to say. Don't know why I kept going on about oily vaginas. Sorry about that.

Happy New Year!